According to leaked internal documents by Die Zeit, IT experts from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) figured out that Windows 8 is too dangerous for data security. The operating system allows Microsoft to remotely control any computer running the OS through a built-in backdoor. Keys to that backdoor are likely accessible to the NSA – and in an unintended ironic twist, perhaps even to the Chinese.
The backdoor is called “Trusted Computing,” developed and promoted by the Trusted Computing Group. The group was founded a decade ago by major tech companies AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Wave Systems. Its core element is a chip, the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and an operating system designed for it, such as Windows 8. Apple completely phased out TPM surveillance chips in 2009 and Linux doesn’t comply with the standards.
TPM’s purpose regards Digital Rights Management and computer security. The system decides what software has been legally obtained and whether it should be allowed to run on the computer, as well as what software, like malware and illegal copies, should be disabled. The whole process is governed by Windows through remote access by Microsoft.
While TPM allowed users to opt in and out, TPM 2.0 is activated by default when the users computer boots up. In short, the user cannot turn TPM off and Microsoft decides what software can run on the computer.
The German government’s concerns stem out of the inability to disable TPM 2.0 and the fact that users of Windows 8 surrender control over their machines the moment they turn them on. Another major concern the government expressed in the leaked document, is that during the chip’s production, the secret key to TPM’s backdoor is generated outside the chip and then transferred to the chip. During this process, copies of all TPM keys can be made and perhaps even distributed to outside sources.
Experts at the BSI, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Federal Administration warned unequivocally against using computers with Windows 8 and TPM 2.0. One of the documents from early 2012 lamented, “Due to the loss of full sovereignty over the information technology, the security objectives of ‘confidentiality’ and ‘integrity’ can no longer be guaranteed.”
Although Various German cities like Munich have begun to adopt alternative Linux-based software, the report from BSI reports that Windows 7 can “be operated safely until 2020.” After that other solutions will have to be found for the IT systems of the German Government.